Muscle tweaks and more serious bone injuries can ruin a golf season. And if you’re getting injured over and over again, you’re probably beyond frustrated. There are a lot of things that can cause muscle and bone injuries. But the PGA Tour’s performance dietitian, Ryan Harmon, says that many athletes she sees getting frequently injured have something in common: low Vitamin D.
What does Vitamin D do?
“It’s involved in so many different things,” Harmon said. “Building bone, the immune system, muscle function, and really interestingly, inflammatory regulation.”
Harmon, who was the head golf dietitian at IMG Academy and has worked with athletes in the MLB, NFL, NBA, ATP/WTA, as well as Olympians, also noticed Vitamin D affects sleep.
If you don’t get enough Vitamin D, you’ll see a variety of symptoms
“Symptoms could be from broken bones to fractures, muscle weakness, muscle injury, a decrease in strength, power, endurance,” Harmon said. “The athletes that are always injured typically have the lowest Vitamin D. It’s fascinating.”
Though there isn’t a lot of literature on Vitamin D and how it affects sleep, Harmon has seen enough from experience to believe there’s a correlation.
“I’ve seen poor sleep with low Vitamin D levels,” Harmon said. “It could affect your golf game because we know if you’re getting poor sleep, you are not going to be bringing your A game on the golf course. That’s going to affect focus, that’s going to affect fine motor control, your ability to read the greens.”
Vitamin D deficiency is common among women
Both men and women can have low Vitamin D. Every person is different, and the work Harmon does is individualised, but from years of doing blood work, Harmon says she’s seen Vitamin D deficiencies are especially common in women.
How to get more Vitamin D
“We get our Vitamin D from UVB radiation from the sun, but we’re all slapping on sunscreen,” Harmon said. So even though golfers are outdoors a lot, all of the things we do to protect ourselves from sunburn — like wearing sunscreen and hats — limits the amount of Vitamin D we get.
Though we primarily get Vitamin D from the sun, there are some foods you can add to your diet to help boost your Vitamin D levels.
“There are some fortified dairy products, that’s a great option,” Harmon said. “If you like eggs, the egg yolk is going to have Vitamin D, especially if it’s a pasture-raised egg. The hens have to have been outside with access to the sun. Mushrooms are another great option, although there’s not a high amount of Vitamin D, they still have some Vitamin D.”
Getting enough Vitamin D through your diet can be difficult, so Harmon says often they end up using supplements to get deficient athletes’ Vitamin D levels up. The only way to know that you have a Vitamin D deficiency is to get a blood test. And if you’re constantly suffering from injuries, along with the other symptoms Harmon laid out, it might be worth asking your doctor if you should get tested.